How Do You Know When to Fold 'Em?

"One door closes and another one opens," my mother used to say. (I never thought I'd be quoting my mother in a blog post, but like many parents, she was often right.)

But when is the right time to close that door? The question applies to both jobs and relationships. Change can suck. In fact, job change in the top 20 most stressful life moments, right behind the death of a friend. When I left publishing and went into financial services (starting close to the bottom again), I ended my first day in my new role thinking, "Oh no...what have I done??!!)

Over time, it turned out to be a sound move...that led to other interesting things...that ultimately took me to where I am today (running my own business, applying everything I learned over the years).

"But the job pays so well!"
"I really like my friends here. I know the routines."
"What if the new job isn't what it seems to be?"
"Who has time to job search? I'm working like a beast!"

Sound familiar? Many of us have had those inner dialogues or raised our concerns with trusted advisors. What's often behind them is fear of the unknown and fear of failure or simply inertia and comfort.

Tip 1: NEVER put your job ahead of your personal or family health.

One SOS member realized that the time had come to move on because she realized her job was hurting her psychological and physical health and ultimately having an impact on her performance. Dani Donovan confesses, "When lunch time finally came around, I was exhausted. I felt burnt out. I was doing a job that I loved and was performing successfully, but for a team that was killing my stamina to continue succeeding...I had been in a toxic relationship with my professional life for about three months."

A professional toxic relationship, like a romantic relationship with the wrong person, can take its toll and, as Dani shares, ultimately impact work performance.

Tip 2: Leave for the right reasons

When you start thinking about leaving a job or a role, do some soul-searching about what specifically is contributing to your discontent. Evaluate that situation based exclusively on your own sense of fulfillment and happiness.

Perhaps you're in a job that you really like, but you see people around you earning more or getting bigger titles. If you're seeking career advancement, make sure your decision is about what YOU want and not what your co-worker is getting.

Walk, don't run. Unless a situation is totally unbearable, think about where you're going and why. Many women are choosing entrepreneurial paths without thinking through the realities of running their own businesses. Or, perhaps you have a great job interview and are offered a generous salary bump. Be sure you've done some thorough homework before you submit that resignation letter. Talk to other people and get a 360-degree perspective on your new "place" before you bolt.

A toxic team leader, management group, or co-worker(s) could be the source of your misery. Depending on the situation, you can attempt to remedy the situation through conversation. That all depends on the culture and the people involved. I once (kindly and honestly) confronted a bully boss and our relationship improved dramatically. Among the scariest moments in my corporate career, it paid off in the long run. We both ultimately left the company, but I felt empowered and my conscience was clear.

Tip 3: Ask for what you need, before you head out the door.

If you want to take on more responsibility or learn something new at your current company, have an honest conversation with your team leader about your goals. Put them "on notice" and give them an opportunity to fix the problem, invest in education, or try you out on a challenging assignment. Gather your thoughts carefully in advance of the conversation. Be calm and positive.

But, if you've already accepted another position and are ready to go, resist the urge to accept a counter-offer. You're simply postponing the inevitable. Here are some compelling reasons not to re-open the door once you've decided to close it.

Tip 4: When you gotta go, depart with grace and dignity

I've realized over the past four decades that the world is scary-small. People I thought I would never encounter again reappear (like either guardian angels or Freddy Krueger) at random times. Trashing a former employer never pays off in the long run.

References for future jobs, LinkedIn recommendations, and even rehires (as an employee or contractor) are all possibilities. You don't want to be remembered as "That whiney woman who wrote a caustic Glassdoor rant." Even if you despise your soon-to-be-former employer, resist the urge to publicly trash them.

In summary...change can be scary but big (and little) risks can result in long-term rewards. Make sure you're leaving for the right reasons -- running towards something potentially better than just away from something painful. Do your due diligence and even exhaust internal options before looking outside. But be realistic about what is changeable and what is truly toxic.

If you make a move and it turns out to be a mistake, don't beat yourself up. Simply put on your big girl pants and pivot again. Only through bold moves can you learn and grow.

Find more inspo here:

Stories of people who left -- only to find something better.

Common myths and facts about job-switching

22 signs you may need to go

How to quit

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